Essex Farm Note
Week 42, 2015
Frost came again on Thursday morning, dusting each blade of grass with glitter. The day before, there was the annual scramble to bring in the tender things that could be gathered and stored. The cellar of the farmhouse is home to two bins of eggplant now. The cooler is full of apples. In the field, the zinnias have wilted, the tomato vines have withered, but the last of the raspberries are on the canes, still red-ripe and fresh.
The Amishmen from Heuvelton – Samuel, Moses, Dennis and Emmanuel – came to visit again this week. They are looking for land, because their young couples are having difficulty founding homesteads within buggy range of the community. This is their third visit with us and each time they come it is a surprise, as though they have been dropped onto our driveway from a time travel device. This time their vessel took the form of a small taxi driven by a Pakistani-American from Keeseville. “He’s Muslim! He’s been in this country thirty years!” Samuel said. I wish I could have heard the questions and answers that passed between them on that ride. At dinner, our lively conversation turns toward family, farming and draft horses. These men are always incredibly cheerful and jokey, despite enduring what must be a difficult and stressful journey. The table rings with belly laughs and guffaws. The Amish may be known for their baked goods and cheese, but really ought to be famous for their collective sense of humor, which is dry as toast. They spent the night in my writing cabin, and the next morning, when I sat down at my desk, I found a note on an index card, in swirly 19th century script:
Land Shoppers’ Cottage
In the last two decades the world has evolved to make an Amish land hunt as difficult as possible. How would you undertake a high-stakes and complex project like this without the internet? Most real estate listings don’t even appear in a newspaper anymore. And this community is strictly Old Order, so no phones, not even in the yard. They carry none of the markers of modern-day personhood – no photo id, no credit card – so it’s complicated to do something as simple as spend the night in a motel. They are looking for reasonably priced parcels of agricultural land, at least four pieces of 50-100 acres within a 12 mile radius, enough to anchor a new community. If anyone has a lead, email me and I will pass it along.
Now the short news. Willa calved yesterday, a bull, unsportingly big for a first time mother. Luckily Willa is a tall, strong gal, and she managed it after a good morning’s work. The last of the green cabbages came in yesterday, heaping tons of them piled in large apple crates. The vegetable team spent most of the day around the wagon with sharp knives and cold hands, trimming away the outer leaves. I’m off to Kentucky on Sunday to speak at St. Catharine College, home of the soon-to-be-dedicated Wendell Berry Farm. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this unexpectedly colorful 42nd week of 2015. Find us at 963-4613, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by index card, in swirly 19th century script.
–Kristin & Mark Kimball